Telling the Truth

By Thomas Kochman - 07.21.2010

The political brouhaha between the NAACP and Tea Party activists that caught Shirley Sherrod in the cross-fire at the cost of her job highlights a key African American/U.S. Mainstream cultural difference.

The U.S. Mainstream view, as manifested by “zero-tolerance” discrimination policies in U.S.  agencies and organizations promotes a standard that sees fault in any blemish of moral character, and admission of that fault as a punishable offense.

The African American cultural position also centers around moral character but is less focused on blame and punishment than correction and moral redemption especially if the effort people are making is sincere.

The first sign in that effort is admission of moral imperfection, lessons learned along the way, and commitment to “getting it right.”

As the NAACP showed in its statement of apology to Ms. Sherrod, “She was sharing this account as part of a story of transformation and redemption. In the full video, Ms. Sherrod says she realized that the dislocation of farmers is about ‘haves and have nots.’

‘It’s not just about black people, it’s about poor people,’ says Sherrod in the speech. “We have to get to the point where race exists but it doesn’t matter.”

Ms. Sherrod should be heralded as someone who has moved further along this difficult path than those who would impugn her moral character for not having been perfect all along.

Others could learn much from her example.

See The NY Times, July 22, 2010 for later developments on this story.